FOLLOWING an information session in Sale recently, the Hazelwood Health Study began more clinical tests last week.
The long term study will invite about 1000 residents in Morwell and Sale, who have already completed the adult survey, to participate in free, specialised cardiovascular health assessments.
At the information session, residents had the opportunity to discuss the latest results and the progress of the study.
Professor Judi Walker said Sale had been particularly helpful for the study, which had been selected not only for its similarities to Morwell, but also because it made the study truly local.
"We could have used elsewhere, but we felt it was important for a Gippsland-wide study we're thinking of the benefits of longitudinal studies for small communities," she said.
"We are collecting so much data, and will be collecting for at least 10 years.
"Our analysis is going to be very important for future health service planning, and Sale."
Results for the survey will be combined with other data, including hospital admissions statistics, Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits scheme information and clinical studies.
Already, respiratory tests have indicated the fire did have an effect on the community, according to senior project manager Dr Jill Blackman.
"The results are showing Morwell is reporting poorer respiratory health," she said.
"This is supported by hospital data and emergency admissions for respiratory diseases.
"The fundamental question is 'has the smoke from the mine fire impacted the health of the community?' and we're answering that in many ways."
Community recovery chair Carolyne Boothman added the results would be important for the community as a whole in many different ways, but especially in an emergency.
"Nobody could answer any questions, like should we evacuate?" she said.
"We must know the impact, so if it happens again, bureaucrats can make decisions."
Next up will be cardiovascular testing, where invited participants will have their blood pressure, electrical activity and cholesterol levels tested.
HHS cardiovascular spokesman Dr Dion Stub said the data from these tests was important for helping to establish a baseline, and would have other benefits for the community.
"The participants in Sale are very important," Dr Stub said.
"Not only does their participation help the researchers measure the impact of the mine fire smoke, it also provides vital information about the cardiovascular health profile in Sale itself.
"This helps to guide long-term health service needs specific to the Sale area."
Testing will take about two hours, and will be held at the HHS clinic at Central Gippsland Health.
The selected residents who agree to take part in the testing will each receive a $50 gift card for their time.
The study will then invite participants to repeat the same assessments on two more occasions; once in three years and again in six years.
Residents who receive the invitation packs should phone the study on 1800 985 899 to book appointments.
Residents who completed the previous adult survey but have since changed address, can phone the recruitment team to find out if they were randomly chosen to participate and also update their address.
This research is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information about the Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au.